I really didn’t intend this week to be “The Five Stages of Grief” week, but it’s been a rough few days.
Two days ago I was furious. Yesterday, I was depressed.
Most of the day I sat around in a lethargic fog. I felt…nothing. Standing took too much energy. I literally sat on Jed’s step stool while I cooked breakfast. It was too hard to do while standing.
Jed happened to be in a “loving” mood yesterday. He told me at least two hundred times “I love you”, “I love my baby Zac”, “I love Daddy”, etc. Occasionally, one of his “I love you’s” would just melt my heart, and I would start to feel.
Those warm, loving feelings brought on by my adorable sons proclamations of love were almost immediately overtaken by sadness. It was as if cracking open the “nothingness” of depression to feel a good emotion was enough to let the tsunami of sad come flooding out.
So many times he would tell me he loved me, I would smile and hug him, then start crying.
Worse, the crying would take too much energy and my body would shut back down into depression mode, where I felt nothing again.
Depression is awful, not because you’re sad. It’s awful because it’s a great big “nothingness” that sucks the life out of you. You can’t sustain “sad” when you’re depressed; it takes too much emotional energy. Depression drains your emotions so you have no energy to expend on feelings.
Which separates you from your family, especially when your three year (who only recently learned to express the thought) decides to tell you over and over again – complete with hugs and kisses – how much he loves you.
And you know you love him. And you hug him and kiss him back.
But your heart can’t truly leap for joy like it SHOULD.
You know how they say that the opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s apathy? Imagine that being your baseline of emotions. For everything. Only, with depression, unlike an apathetic view of a person, you know you’re SUPPOSED to feel something so then you know you’re supposed to feel guilty for NOT feeling something so when you shake out of the depression? All those feelings you couldn’t have come steamrollering over you all at once and you feel like the worst person in the world for NOT feeling things when you should have.
So, why was I so depressed?
Well, after the Fury Tuesday night, Darrel and I took a little time to Talk About Stuff. I mentioned a fellow FPIES Mama who is debating on getting rid of her cats because her child is so very sensitive to cross-contamination. I expected him to simply agree with me that such a decision is gut-wrenching and awful, and continue the conversation in other directions.
He did agree; however, he also dropped a bombshell on me.
He’d been thinking we need to do the same thing.
We’re at our wits end about Zac. The poor boy can’t seem to catch a break. 16 months old with NO safe foods to eat, and when we can get him to baseline (a challenge in and of itself) we have seen him twice ruin that by eating cat poop.
The cats food bowls are not safe from the boys anywhere in the house…except on the kitchen counters. That means that no matter how much we clean the kitchen, there is a high probability that cross-contamination from the cats food is getting into OUR food. Or at least on our counters, utensils, and pots and pans, which still means it is getting into our food.
The cats use the litter box and eat their food; residue from both those things lingers on their fur and feet. Surely they’ve drug traces of those things all over the house.
Perhaps one reason why Zac is having so much trouble finding a safe food is that his “bucket” is kept almost completely full constantly from cat contamination.
This is logical.
This is killing me.
Back in 2006, I stumbled across a stray cat at my apartment complex. She followed me right into my apartment and made herself to home.
She was dirty and skinny and hungry, and surely someone else had encountered her before me…but she chose to make me her person and she’s been with me ever since.
Only 8 months later, I was busy renovating my newly purchased house when I found another stray; he was young, skinny, and trying to eat something covered with ants, and when we picked him up he snuggled right in and started purring.
So he joined my little “family”, too.
I love my cats. Honestly, by the time I met Darrel, if he’d not been okay with my cats I would have told him to hit the road. The cats have always been reliable companions; by that point in my dating experience, men were absolutely not.
Fortunately, Darrel liked my cats, and Darrel was a reliable guy, and we all made a happy family together.
So the idea of sending them away just KILLS ME.
Especially since my boys love the cats as much as I do. Jed’s first word (after Mama and Dada) was “Kitty”. Yesterday he told me repeatedly “I love Murray all the time”, while grinning and petting Murray.
Zac isn’t talking at all yet, but when he can get a hold of one of the cats he grunts and shrieks with excitement, bounces, and can hardly stand himself from his joy.
So taking away their beloved cats just feels…mean.
We’re fortunate; my parents have said they’re willing to take the cats in for us. So we’ll still see them occasionally. They’ll still be part of the Family. They’ll be able to come back home someday.
Still, sending my sweet kitties away isn’t the reason I was overwhelmed with depression.
It was just the catalyst.
Poor Darrel spent all day yesterday thinking I was mad at him for being “the bad guy” and pointing out the logical choice we must make. Very untrue. I wasn’t “shooting the messenger”.
I was just devastated by the message.
See, up to this point, FPIES has wreaked havoc on our lives in so many ways…but I’ve been able to maintain large elements of our lives unchanged, and adapted other parts of our lives to still be somewhat akin to our previous status quo.
I’ve felt that FPIES was a PART of our lives. Not our whole lives.
I’ve been able to hang on to the shred of hope that Zac will soon outgrow his FPIES; that he will start finding safe foods and in just a year or two will be a “normal” kid.
That in just a year or two our lives will not be so restricted by food. That in just a year or two the kiddos can go to play dates. To preschool. To Sunday School. To Church. To Europe, if we wanted!
By facing up to the truth that Zac is likely more sensitive than we’d admitted, that his case of FPIES is one of the more extreme cases, that he might even have other medical conditions compounding his FPIES, I’m facing up to the truth that FPIES has now completely taken over our lives.
FPIES now calls the shots in our lives on every topic and in every way.
FPIES now stands front and center, a gigantic, malignant shadow in the room that makes everything we do turn grey and fuzzy with its’ presence.
It’s no longer the annoying racoon getting into our garbage cans at night; a small creature we can easily trap and contain and deal with.
Now it’s a bear that has learned to open doors, and we are completely at its mercy when it chooses to come into our home and destroy the Good and Wholesome Things we’ve built here.
The thing is, Zac’s FPIES has ALWAYS been that bear, that malignant shadow.
We’ve just been able to pretend otherwise for the last 14 months.
Sending the cats away is an admission of the denial I’ve been in for over a year, and the comprehension of just how much our lives are out of our control was enough to weaken my will for depression to come and completely dull my spirit.
But…this was not the kind of depression I’ve dealt with before in my life. My depressions of yesteryear were, if not caused by, at least exacerbated by my Fructose Malabsorption. (And yes, I made the connection that Tuesday I ate some onion and garlic and immediately suffered from Fury and then Depression.)
So I don’t believe the depression I experienced on Wednesday was the type of depression that necessitates medical intervention. After taking an impromptu nap, I felt much better. Less numb.
The depression had loosened its grip.
And then Jed saved me the rest of the way. He kept telling me he loved me, and I started to feel warm fuzzies again…and very soon, all the bad feelings had washed away and I was able to feel purely the love I always have in my heart for Jed.
And then I just felt Sad. Normal Sad.
Sad because I’m sending the cats away in order to help my son be healthy. Sad that my son is likely ‘worse’ than I had thought, medically speaking. Sad that our lives are no longer our own, and will not be our own for many years to come.
And sadness is normal when facing those facts.
Bleak numbness is not.
As with the anxiety attacks I’ve been dealing with this year, there is nothing I can do for depression. No medicines I can take, thanks to having to restrict my diet for Zac. No therapy I can afford, thanks to being out of work to care for Zac.
So I have no choice but to plow through my anxiety and occasional depression and simply force myself to “get over it”.
There’s no way I would do that if I had a choice.
It is taking every ounce of willpower I have – and even strength I didn’t know I had – to keep myself even-keeled this year.
Other FPIES and special needs Mama’s surely feel these waves of anxiety and depression. So if you start to feel anxious, if you stop feeling feelings and depression washes over you, know one thing:
IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT. YOU ARE NOT WEAK.
We’ve just been dealt a really rotten hand at this poker game, and folding isn’t an option. We have to play it out. That SUCKS.
So call whomever you must call. Take whatever meds you must take. Do whatever you need to do to hang in there until this hand is played out and we can return to normal.
To quote The Bloggess: “Depression Lies”. Whether your depression comes from body chemistry, history of abuse, or just a really, REALLY stressful time of your life, don’t let it win. It lies.
It says we can’t let our hearts leap for joy when our children tell us they love us. It says we can’t feel anything because if we do, we’ll feel pain.
Even with FPIES, there is so much to be content with in our lives. So much to actually be happy about and enjoy.
Please don’t let depression steal that from you.
How do you pull out of depression when you can’t take drugs or get therapy?